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Caribbean Nations Adopt 10-Point Reparations Program

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

A Caribbean initiative designed to seek reparations from European nations that dominated the trans-Atlantic slave trade has received a major boost from the region’s leaders.

Caricom prime ministers and presidents have endorsed a comprehensive plan that includes the cancellation of billions of dollars of debt and an apology from such countries as Britain, France and the Netherlands which enriched themselves from the Caribbean’s human resources over a 250-plus year period ending in the 19th century.

The heads of government have agreed to move forward with their case against the three countries in particular which were prime movers and shakers of slavery, according to the British law firm, Leigh Day, which has been retained by the Caribbean to press the matter in court, if early negotiations fail.

The decision was made in St. Vincent & the Grenadines where the Caricom leaders have just concluded a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

“I would say we made good progress on that (reparations) issue, and before the end of June, some approach is going to be made to the European countries in relation to this matter of reparations,” Gonsalves, St. Vincent’s Prime Minister said.

“We believe we have the law and the facts on our side in relation to addressing the legacy of native genocide and African slavery and we will make our case,” he added. “It is a serious proposal, with serious issues, within the same context of not fighting anybody.

“These things never come easy but these are 14 sovereign countries representing 16 million people with a huge Diaspora in the United States, in Canada, in Europe,” said Dr. Gonslaves, an attorney who once taught at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. “I think we have some influence. I am satisfied and we are satisfied that we have the law on our side, and we have the facts on our side.”

The 10-point plan, explained Martyn Day, a British attorney who is spearheading the region’s case would consist of a “fair set of demands on the governments whose countries grew rich at the expense of those regions whose human wealth was stolen from them.”

As Day pointed out, the group of English, Creole and Dutch-speaking islands and coastal states that belong to Caricom also wants European help in strengthening their educational and cultural institutions and their health facilities.

Caricom states are expected to push for litigation if the European countries decline to negotiate.

The region’s leaders made their decision after Professor Sir Hillary Beckles, Chairman of the Region’s Reparations Commission and Principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies had made a presentation to them on what is being called a “reparatory justice framework.” It comprises such things as an apology, the question of organizing with African nations and persons who support the case for reparations as well as matters relating to health, education and literacy as well as building cultural institutions and developing programs that address the needs of indigenous people.

Sir Hillary is one of the Caribbean’s foremost historians and has written extensively on slavery and reparations. His latest book, “Britain’s Black Debt, Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide,” was published a year ago.

Caricom and European countries are to meet soon in London and their talks would enable “our clients to quickly gauge whether or not their concerns are being taken seriously,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

The plan is said to include a demand for the creation of a “reparations program that would seek European diplomatic assistance from European governments, to potentially resettle members of the Rastafarian movement in Africa.

International Women's Day Rally for NYC to Raise Minimum Wage

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By Khorri Atkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Living on minimum wage is a harsh reality for many New Yorkers like Sabrina Storey, a fast-food worker, who has been working at a local KFC franchise since December of last year.

“The wage is just unfair and for the work we do, we should get a higher raise,” said Storey, who gets a weekly earnings of $127, and says “that is not enough to pay rent and feed myself. I have a friend who helps me with things I need, but can’t afford.”

Storey is also facing another challenge: the recent cuts to food stamps, which she depends. Her story sounds extreme, but Storey is not alone. Living from paycheck to paycheck has been a national problem for many.

This concern prompted hundreds of women of color and members from grassroots organizations to rally at Union Square March 9, calling on Mayor de Blasio to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. The rally coincided with a global campaign in recognition of International Women’s Day and highlighted the struggles that women around the world continues to face. Living on an unlivable minimum wage is one of them.

“Women are the head of most families. Some are doing two jobs and they need living wage jobs with benefits, said Christine Williams, a member of Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Million Worker March Movement. “$15 dollars an hour with benefits, that’s what we want and it needs to happen now,” she added.

Williams works in the city’s subway system, and said she has been seeing “homeless women and children sleeping on the train 3 o’clock in the mornings, because they have no where to go.” She echoed, “If the system is not creating jobs, you have to make these low wage jobs livable wage jobs.”

In his first State of the City address, in February, de Blaiso have asked the state’s legislature for the city to set a higher minimum wage. But, “this wouldn’t be productive” and may caused “a chaotic situation,” Cuomo said in a recent interview with WCNY’s Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom.”

“We’re one state and we don’t want to cannibalize ourselves. We don’t want to have different cities with different tax rates, competing among themselves. We compete with other states,” Cuomo added.

But in one of the nation’s most expensive cities, which has a high cost of living, protesters argued that New York’s current $8-per-hour is a poverty-level wage. States like Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco are all considering to increase their minimum wage up to $15 an hour.

Saturday’s rally started at 23–29 Washington Place where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory once was. Women from all ethnicity groups, including Muslims and student activism groups marched to International Action Center’s New York office with signs, some with pictures of women political prisoners and Marissa Alexander, as passersby looked to see what was happening. Some waved their hands in support. They stopped at a McDonalds franchise, and chanted “The women united will never be defeated! $15 minimum wage is what we want!”

Among the hundreds was Jocelyn Gay, who marched with four others, representing women in Haiti they told the AmNews. This is due to the ongoing struggles that women in the earthquake ravaged country continues to endure. They’re not getting no help from the government, Gay said.

“If the women are behind, workers are behind. A lot of women are still homeless after the earthquake,” said Gay, who alleged that “the UN military forces are raping females and males,” but an allegation that was also reported by the media.

“They are being paid hefty salaries for doing absolutely nothing. Women are the backbone of the society in Haiti,” she continues. Many of them work as farmers and sell as vendors in the market place. Women are also being exploited especially in the factories, with the low wages they get despite long hours they work.”

Haitians Welcome TPS Extension, "Act of Humanity" by Washington

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

“Act of humanity that extends beyond the boundaries of the United States and into the heart of Haiti.”

That reaction by New York City Councilmember Dr. Mathieu Eugene who has come to personify temporary protected status for Haitian refugees living in the United States summed up the feelings of many immigrants from the Caribbean nation living.

“TPS is another form of relief for Haitian immigrants and their families back home,” added the Brooklyn Democrat who represents parts of the Crown Heights community at City Hall. “It has brought smiles to the faces of people who were really very anxious about their future in the country after they were forced to leave their homeland in the wake of the devastating earthquake of four years ago.”

In what is being seen as a “major act of compassion,” the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extended TPS for an additional 18 months, giving thousands of Haitians the right to study and live and work in the country without having to fear detention and ultimately deportation to their birthplace. The extension becomes effective on July 23 and runs through January 22, 2016 but to continue to receive the immigration benefits, Haitians must register between March 3 and May 2 this year.

As of December last year, 2, 637 Haitians in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the northeastern region had been granted TPS beginning in 2010. It was extended in 2011 and again the following year.

“Before the recent announcement by Washington people were coming to my office in Brooklyn in droves every day asking what they could expect,” added Dr. Eugene, the first Haitian-born elected official in New York to sit on the City Council. “The extension has lifted a weight off the shoulders of people who can concentrate on providing for their families and relatives, whether they are here in the U.S. or back home. The uncertainty was a great burden. When you receive TPS the benefits extend to people back home in Haiti who rely on their close relatives for support.”

Robert Cerelus, a Queens resident, said without the extension his life would have been turned upside down.

“The uncertainty was getting too many of us, not knowing if you were going to be ordered back home or allowed to stay and continue your life,” he said. “Just remember most of us came to the United States after experiencing the terrible tragedy of the January 2010 earthquake and the devastation, deaths, homelessness and broken lives left.”

When TPS was first granted to Haitians, Washington:

Gave a green light to al Haitian living in the country as undocumented immigrants to stay. Allowed orphans who were in the process of being adopted to enter the country citing humanitarian grounds.

Suspended deportations of all nationals of the Creole speaking country who were in “removal” proceedings.

Approved employment authorizations were Haitian students who were in the country on F-1 visas. “Initially, TPS was granted to Haitians who came to the U.S. immediately after the earthquake but it was later given to the people of the country a year later,” explained Councilmember Eugene. “The improved benefit was granted after considerably lobbying in Washington. I visited Washington more than a dozen times trying and succeeding in getting the additional benefit.”

An earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haiti, killing an estimated 250,000 people, injuring more than 100,000 and leaving at least 500,000 homeless. It forced tens of thousands of them to live in tent cities in and around Port au Prince, the capital. The act of nature caused about $10 billion in damage to the country’s roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, commercial firms and churches. The presidential palace was destroyed.

“It certainly left us in a terrible economic and social situation,” said Marguerite Etienne, who lives in Brooklyn. “The decision to extend TPS yet again reinforces in our minds that some people in Washington, including President Barack Obama really cares about what happens to us.”

In a statement announcing the extension, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services explained the extension “allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible Haitian TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the 60 day period and request a new EAD will receive with an expiration date of January 22, 2016.”

SAT Officials Hope to Score High in Eliminating Racial Bias

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Administrators of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) have announced with great fanfare that they overhauling the standardized tool that helps determine whether an applicant will get accepted into the college of his or her choice. But in revamping the test, SAT officials are facing a test of their own.

“The redesign is trying to get a sense of what students learned in high school…and trying to help students demonstrate their critical thinking skills instead of just picking an answer. And that’s all well and good,” said Michelle Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a college-access policy think tank. “But the real question is, are all students getting the same opportunity to learn those skills before they get to college? Students, especially low-income Black students, often go to schools that are under-resourced. Will they have ever been exposed to the type of questions to be asked on this test, or will it all just reinforce the bias we already see?”

In part because of what some perceive as racial and cultural bias – along with poor schools – many Blacks don’t do well on the standardized test.

Last year, only 15.6 percent of African American students who took the SAT reached or exceeded College Board’s ‘SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark’ score of 1550 (out of 2400 possible points). According to College Board, the nonprofit education giant that created and develops the exam, this score is associated with a 65 percent chance of earning a college freshman year GPA of a B- or higher. This figure was up from 14.8 percent in 2012.

Averaged scores for individual sections of the SAT were lowest among African American test takers, hovering around 430 (out of 800) per section. The average scores for their White and Asian American counterparts were in the mid- to upper-500s. Everyone else’s scores – Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, “Other” Latinos, and students identifying as “other”—averaged about 450 and above.

Although the test’s intended use is to assess college readiness, researchers, educators, and policy makers allege that it has had a hand in creating the access disparities it now intends to fight.

For example, there are the test-prep courses and books that give students an edge—if they can afford it. College Board’s online course is currently $69.95 and the book is $31.99; another popular option is Kaplan’s SAT classroom prep for $699, or if on a budget, its online course is $299.

“Testing is a big money-making industry at this point. The SAT is inherently flawed,” says Okaikor Aryee-Price, who taught eleventh grade for 11 years and now teaches seventh grade while pursuing a doctorate in Instructional Design. “Standardized tests came out of the eugenics movement, to say that people of color were not as intelligent as Whites. They’re not used the same way anymore, but they still test the same things. These access gaps were intentionally created.”

Even post-secondary institutions have begun to wonder whether the SAT is worth their time. According to a list compiled by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, more than 800 colleges and universities have gone “test-optional” or “test-flexible” (meaning it is either only partially counts toward admissions considerations, or not at all). The list includes highly ranked institutions such as New York University, American University, and University of Texas at Austin.

However, the majority of colleges and universities require SAT scores (or its competitor, the ACT) as part of the application. Many schools (and organizations) also use these scores as thresholds for awarding grants and scholarships.

Still, College Board says the redesign is in direct response to these and other questions and criticisms.

For starters, they’re expanding two existing programs that provide personalized college information packets along with four college application fee waivers, to high-achieving low-income students. The organization will also make free test-prep programs and practice materials available for all students.

“Our members, including admission officers, school counselors, teachers, and students, have called on us to change the SAT and go beyond assessment to deliver opportunity,” the College Board explained on its website. “Our goal is to support college readiness and success for more students and to make sure that those who are prepared take full advantage of the opportunities they’ve earned through their hard work.”

According to College Board data, African Americans have consistently had the lowest average score on the essay portion since 2005, when it was added to the test. The new SAT makes the essay portion optional. Students will still have to write the essay—it simply may or may not count toward their score, depending on the discretions of their intended colleges, and their high school district.

According to Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education for the National School Boards Association, the essay option will likely get mixed reviews.

“School systems right now are already under pressure anyway with all these changes related to implementing [K-12] Common Core standards,” she explains, adding that 45 states and the District of Columbia are mired in the curriculum transition. “To the degree that the SAT is better able to align to what high schools are teaching, alleviates one issue—because if the curriculum teaches on thing and then teachers have to stop to teach another thing for this test it is frustrating.”

The essay section is designed to more closely resemble actual high school and college assignments, and will now be based on analyzing a reading passage. The prompt itself will be disclosed to students in advance and will remain constant from exam to exam; only the reading material will change each time the test is taken.

The essay section was changed and made optional for two reasons: There is no data to suggest that one essay is predictive of college success; and because there was no consensus among college admissions officers regarding the value of the essay.

Other changes to the test include eliminating questions on flowery “SAT vocabulary words;” abandoning point deductions for incorrect answers; and shrinking the focus of math sections to more common branches (i.e. algebra and word problem-solving).

“Because a test alone can’t change student outcomes, assessments such as the SAT must be integrated with rigorous classroom instruction, and through their results, propel students to greater opportunities,” a statement reads. “The redesigned SAT will ask students to apply a deep understanding of the few skills and content areas most important for college and career readiness. The questions will be more familiar to students because they’ll be modeled on the work of the best classroom teachers.”

Not everyone is convinced.

“It all sounds like double-talk to me,” says Bernard Hamilton, president of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. “We want to make college more accessible, so let’s make a new test so we can eliminate students based on the test? If a state measures student results in your district based on the test, then schools will change their curriculum to reflect that test, since they are being evaluated on it. The test goes from being a predictor of college success…to being used outside of why it was created.”

The new SAT will be administered for the first time in 2016, as today’s high-school freshmen begin preparing for college.

Cooper said, “I’m positively optimistic that the redesign will help many students [gain access], but I want to make sure they are addressing the inherent cultural, racial, and income bias that has long been a staple of the SAT.”

Blacks More Likely to Bully and Be Bullied than Other Groups

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By Jazelle Hunt
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Blacks, who are already more likely than other racial groups to be involved in situations that involve bullying, both as a victim and as a perpetrator, are subjected to additional bullying because of other complicating factors, including poverty, according to scholars and experts on the subject.

“African Americans have higher rates of bullying. When I looked at the factors, they were all overlapping with health and social disparity,” said Maha Mohammad Albdour, who is examining bullying as part of her doctoral studies in Community Health Nursing at Wayne State University. Her research findings were published this month in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.

“There is a lot of interest in bullying, but…. [t]his population has a lot going on related to social and health disparities, so maybe the experience is different from other populations,” Albdour stated.

According to her research, Black children are more likely to be involved in bullying (as aggressor, victim, or bystander) than other groups. Additionally, Stopbullying.gov, a federal resource, found that Black and Hispanic children who are bullied are more likely to do poorly in school than their White counterparts.

They are also more likely to possess characteristics that make them a target for bullying. According to some studies, children who are perceived as “different” – through sexuality or gender identity, lower socio-economic status than their peers, or pronounced weight differences (over or under), are more likely to be bullied.

As of 2010, 51 percent of Black children ages 2 to 19 had been told by a doctor that they were overweight, according to the Office of Minority Health. But such factors and the effects they bring can be mitigated by a trusted adult’s presence.

“For African American children, family was a strong predicting factor,” Albdour says. “[Family] can even act as a buffer for community violence. If there is communication, cohesion, and the parents are involved in the child’s school life, it has a huge preventative effect.”

Albdour’s research mirrors a newly released report, titled, “Peer Victimization in Fifth Grade and Health in Tenth Grade.”

The report, which appears in the March issue of Pediatrics, tracked more than 4,000 students’ experiences over time, surveying them in fifth grade (when the prevalence of bullying peaks), in seventh grade, and in 10th grade.

While the study did nog specifically examine race, the researchers found that kids who are bullied, especially for prolonged periods, are more likely to experience poor mental and physical health in adolescence and beyond.

As fifth graders, almost a third of students questioned who reported being victims of bullying exhibited poor psychological health, compared to the 4.3 percent who were not bullied.

By seventh grade, those who reported being bullied in the past were better off—the percentage of students exhibiting signs of a poor quality of life as fifth graders was cut in half if the bullying had stopped by seventh grade.

However, the rate of emotional trouble was highest among 10th graders who reported being bullied both in the past and present, with nearly 45 percent showing signs of serious distress. This group of chronically bullied 10th graders had the highest rates of low self-worth, depression, and poor quality of life (and the second-highest rates of poor physical health, after those who were being bullied in the present only).

“Any victimization is bad, but it has stronger effects depending on whether it continues or not,” says Laura Bogart, the author of the study. “If the bullying experience happens in fifth grade, you can still see effects in 10th grade.”

Those effects manifest in myriad detrimental ways for children involved in bullying—but the repercussions differ depending on how the child is involved.

Stopbullying.gov says that kids who bully others are more likely to be violent, vandalize property, drop out of school, and have sex early. As adults, they are more likely to have criminal convictions and traffic citations, and abuse romantic partners. Warning signs include aggression, difficulty accepting responsibility for one’s own actions, and a competitive spirit that is concerned with reputation or popularity.

The site advises that kids who are bullied “are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.”

“There are subtle signs,” Bogart says. “If a child doesn’t want to go to school all of a sudden, or if they’re in their room a lot. If they’re sad or angry, or if they’re not talking about other kids and friends from school [for example].”

The kids who experience the most far-reaching consequences are bully-victims—kids who are victims in one area of their lives, and victimize others in another.

“Bully-victims are the most afflicted. They have more substance abuse, more social problems…and this is true across ethnicities,” Albdour explains. “You can expect bully-victims to internalize problems, then act out. It results in them being an aggressive person as an adult.”

Parents can play a vital role.

“One argument is that there should be immediate and early intervention, and parents should be aware of what’s going on in their child’s life through good communication with their child,” Bogart says.

In the case of Black children, anti-discrimination/civil rights laws can be applied if harassment is race-based. As StopBullying.gov explains, “There is no federal law that specifically applies to bullying. In some cases, when bullying is based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion, bullying overlaps with harassment and schools are legally obligated to address it.”

States seem to be showing more sensitivity in addressing bullying.

“In almost every state there is a law that schools have to have anti-bullying policy, and it usually involves parents,” Bogart says. “Now, there’s a lot less talk of ‘kids just do that’ or ‘boys will be boys.’ We are evolving as a nation.”

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